Let’s Shift How We Approach Senior Health Care for Better Outcomes

doctor talking with senior
For older patients with multiple specialists, it is beneficial to have a trusted geriatrician who can oversee and focus on the whole person.


If your young son or daughter developed an illness, who would you call? It’s a no-brainer; many parents have the number programmed on their phone for the pediatrician they have carefully selected to manage the health care needs of their children. Due to their specialized training, working with a trusted pediatrician ensures the best possible care.

Similarly, choosing a physician for older loved ones who specializes in senior health care needs is just as important. Yet sadly, the health care system as a whole has not placed an emphasis on the unique health care needs of older adults. Dr. Carla Perissinotto, geriatrician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, shares her alarm over this age-related health care gap, and how little professors in medical school are focused on elder care.

In fact, looking back at her own residency, she shares, “We literally did the same thing for forty-year-olds as we did for eighty-year-olds, and we’d treat all eighty-year-olds the same whether they’re dependent or independent, have limited life expectancy or complete life expectancy, and that just didn’t sit well with me.”

Fortunately, there has been a new move to provide medical students with additional training in geriatrics, including a focus on a holistic strategy to senior health care – thinking about the body as a whole. It is essential for seniors to have a trusted geriatrician who can oversee and put together the effects of the often multiple specialists a senior patient sees. As a matter of fact, providing additional education for anyone who comes in contact with older adults in a medical setting – from hospital receptionists to EMTs and triage workers to nurses and doctors – is crucial to combat ageism and make certain older adults obtain the standard of care they need and deserve.

Additionally, older adults and their family caregivers may want to consider utilizing the services of a geriatrician as their primary care physician. Not to be confused with gerontologists, who specialize in aging-related matters but are not medical doctors, geriatricians are board-certified physicians who have finished a fellowship in geriatric medicine and have also passed the Geriatric Medicine Certification Exam.

According to the American Society of Geriatrics, there are approximately 7,000 certified geriatricians in the United States. To ensure the best senior health care, they recommend evaluating prospective geriatricians by asking the following questions:

  • What training and certification have you received?
  • Do you accept my insurance policy?
  • Will you collaborate with the rest of my healthcare team?
  • How is communication handled – texts about prescription refills, email appointment reminders, etc.?
  • What is your driving philosophy?

Schedule an in-person visit with the geriatrician for an initial consultation, and assess additional details such as:

  • Is the office easily accessible?
  • Is there ample parking?
  • Are the staff respectful and courteous?
  • Does the geriatrician speak directly to the patient?
  • Do questions receive comprehensive answers?

Pay attention to your gut feelings. If any warning signs are noted, you might want to consider searching further to ensure the geriatrician selected is an individual you and the senior are completely comfortable with.

The professionals at Golden Harmony are fully trained in providing compassionate, specialized care for seniors within the comfort of home and communicate with other members of the individual’s care team as needed. Call us any time at 919-426-7522 for help and support or to learn more about options for senior care in Cary and surrounding areas. Please see our full service area.